Business PC Buyers Pick Windows XP Over Vista

Microsoft’s claims about strong sales of Windows Vista for the enterprise may not be true, if statistics from Devil Mountain Software, a perennial thorn in the Redmond, Wash. software giant’s side, are true.

According to Devil Mountain Software, about 35 percent of more than 3,000 business computer users worldwide who have installed its DMS Clarity Tracker Agent in their Windows PCs to collect information about their PCs have downgraded from Windows Vista to Windows XP.

Devil Mountain Software is collecting the data to “create as large a repository as possible of real time metrics data from Windows PCs all over the world who’s running what and how it’s performing,” company Chief Technical Officer Craig Barth said

In response to questions, a Microsoft spokesperson downplayed the issue, saying via e-mail, “The study monitors only a very small sample from an unknown number of sources,” the spokesperson said.

“These users are not necessarily representative of Windows Vista users as a whole.”

The spokesperson also said downgrading is not an issue. “Per our longstanding practice allowing ‘downgrade’ rights, enterprise customers and purchasers of Windows Vista Ultimate or Windows Vista Business editions can choose to downgrade to Windows XP Professional if they feel they need more time to get ready for Windows Vista,” the spokesperson said.

An enterprise “may downgrade in the short term but with an eye toward upgrading later.” According to the spokesperson, the right to download is “part of our standard licensing agreement,” and not a loophole.

Microsoft discontinued sales of XP on January 30, but extended the expiration date to June 30 for most PC manufacturers and retailers after protests from customers. Still, it refuses to die.

Here’s how Devil Mountain Software came to its conclusion: Data collected about the PCs was checked by manufacturer and model number against vendors’ Websites to determine what operating system was pre-loaded. Only PCs from major vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell provided such information, Barth said.

“We found that 65 percent of the boxes pre-loaded with Vista were still running it, and the rest were running Windows XP,” Barth said. HP and Dell did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

A quick check of the Website of CDW, a major reseller of computer equipment to enterprises, showed that several HP Compaq PCs are being offered with Vista Business with an option to downgrade to Windows XP Pro. These include items in the 27xx, the 65xx, the 67xx, the 68xx, the 69xx series, and the 85xx series.

The site also had several Lenovo ThinkPad models offered with Windows XP Pro.

Asked why some of the users of PCs polled by Devil Mountain Software’s application switched to XP, Barth said that they “either manually wiped the drive and installed XP or paid the vendor to uninstall Vista and install XP. It blows you away that people will pay not to have the default operating system,” Barth added.

Users who downloaded and installed the DMS Clarity Tracker Agent are “likely to be enterprise users who are technically savvy,” Barth said. “Getting metrics about your PC is not the kind of thing grandma would want to do.”

What happened to Microsoft’s claims that Vista’s selling well, then? After all, Microsoft chief operating officer Kevin Turner said at the company’s annual financial analysts meeting in July 2007 that it had shipped 60 million copies of Windows Vista. Microsoft itself had rolled out 100,000 seats, he said.

And the Microsoft spokesperson said today that the company has sold more than 180 million Windows Vista licenses since the product was launched. The sales were calculated through the end of June, when XP was still available to retailers and OEMs, according to the spokesperson.

“Contrary to the recent Devil Mountain Software Survey…Windows Vista momentum is getting stronger and stronger,” the Microsoft spokesperson said. The spokesperson cited a CDW poll saying that Vista is gaining traction among businesses. Nowhere in the report is there anything relating to sales of Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate, licenses for both of which include downgrade rights, according to the Microsoft spokesperson.

Devil Mountain Software remains confident in its numbers. “The great thing is that nobody can lie about our numbers,” Barth said. “The machines automatically report what they’re running and how burdened they are.”

Adapted from

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